I reached the age of 17 and was still on ‘outpersonals’. ‘PD’ wrote me one day. He was an English man who lived in France and was 48. We became online friends and for the first time I had an older friend I could talk to. He was a paying member on the site, so we could send each other messages. We clicked as great friends and we wrote each other almost everyday. He lived alone, with his dog in a big house. He told me of his past as a model and an actor. He’d ask me a lot of questions, about school, my family and life in general. I sent him pictures of Nigerian neighborhoods, my family, the markets and other places.
PD knew a lot about Nigeria because he was there in the 70’s at the invitation of his neighbours in London. He sent me lots of pictures too. As our friendship developed, he started to call our house every weekend. He cared a lot about me and often called me his son. He encouraged me to be focused in school. He asked me to stay away from Jason and his friends. PD never had any children of his own, but he was once married. Every time he wrote, he ended his email with “your friend PD”, that meant a lot to me.
When PD turned 50, he was told that he had lung cancer. He shared the news with my family and myself. We would pray for him on an ongoing basis to get well. I was to discover later that it wasn’t just lung cancer, as diagnosed by the doctor. He also had a brain tumor that kept on getting worse, while the doctor had focused on his lungs. He made trips to England to see a specialist. He was in and out of the hospital. He’d keep in touch with me; he was more a talking on the phone person and his text messages were never clear.
On 1st May 2010, PD passed away. He had been getting better and was more audible every time we spoke on the phone. I had called one weekend to ask how he was doing, a woman picked up the phone. She told me that he had passed away during the week. She asked who I was; I told her that I was a friend. She said she was a friend too and that she was the one who was sorting out his things and turning off all of his phones. I was sad for a very long time. I saved every email he sent me, every picture in my yahoo inbox…it became my PD shrine.
So there I was, alone again, after all these years. I called Jason. This time, I was older and wiser. I did not go along with his old game. I simply wanted a friend, sadly he wasn’t interested.
I went on Google and looked for more gay dating sites. I discovered many – manjam, gaydar.co.uk, planetromeo and bgclive.com. I opened an account in all of them. I had a new catchy profile name. This time, I was also going to be sexy like Jason. I decided to take nude pictures of myself, but first I had to lose weight. I started starving myself and taking herbal weight loss pills. Even though I was stooling and throwing up, it was the price I had to pay, if I wanted to have “It”. At my heaviest, I was 129kg and I came down to 80kg.
The new weight came with serious pains. I had lost it so fast, that my body always felt tired. Nonetheless, I simply focused on the “benefits” of my new physique and carried on with my life.
With my new outlook and approach, I met a lot of guys. I had a lot of sex. I was having sex with virtually everyone in the community – careless unprotected sex. It was how “they” wanted me. I was everyone’s pet and go-to bottom. And yet to many, I was still too feminine and the cycle of rejection continued. It hurt more this time, because I had gone through a lot to have the almost perfect body!
One night, I was watching porn early in the morning in my room. I left it playing as I went to the toilet. My mum walked in and saw what I had been watching. As I walked into my room, I saw her staring at the screen. She looked so angry. She rang my dad and told him about my collection of gay porn that I hid in the wardrobe. I was shocked, ‘how did she find out about those?’ Then I remembered that there was a time that I had been away on holiday. She had asked for some of the documents that I kept for her. I told her to check my wardrobe – the same place that I had hid my porn She must have seen it then, but never said a word.
My mum talked about my sneaking out of the house after receiving ‘strange phone calls’. I noticed my dad calling me; I did not pick up the phone. He then sent me a text saying that he was embarrassed and disappointed with me. My mum didn’t go back to sleep, neither did I. She mentioned the names of my friends from church and said that maybe they were the ones influencing me. Truth is, they were all innocent and were not gay. None of the people that I had sex with knew my house, I only showed up to theirs when they wanted me.
When my dad got back he mentioned parts of the bible that condemned being gay. He asked me to retrace my steps and said that if ever I got into any problem because of my sexual preference, I should not come to him for help and that he was not going to listen. My mum said ‘he’ll change’. From that day on, whenever they prayed for me, they would pray for me to change… pray for me to no longer be gay.
Towards the end of 2010, round about October, I noticed that I was ill most of the time. This was really unusual, as I rarely fell sick. I did not think much of it and thought it was nothing out of the ordinary; my family thought so too.
I was responsible for the family house in Lagos, which I shared with some siblings and other close family members. The rest of the family lived in other states in Nigeria and we only saw each other during holidays and other family events. My responsibilities in the family house included, cooking all the meals, cleaning, shopping for the house, paying the bills and attending PTA meetings at my younger sibling’s different schools.
Due to my illness, my mum stayed in Lagos, to ensure that I was strong enough, before she returned back home. During that Christmas holiday we had a full house. Everyone was there, all happy and joyful; I was the only one who wasn’t genuinely happy. I was still sick, but I had to pretend like I was well.
My malaria and typhoid had become worse and I had been admitted to the hospital twice. I was taken to see a specialist and a series of tests were done. I got more pills; which were not cheap. I got better in the weeks that followed and my mum returned home; but my troubles were only just beginning!
Towards the end of January 2011, I became very feverish again. Blisters started to appear on my back and hands. My skin was flakey and started to peel. I had no appetite or energy. I knew something was wrong. I went online searching for answers. I did a search, using the symptoms I was experiencing, as my search query. All I got was typhoid and a list of other deadly diseases that had one or more of these symptoms. I was very scared. I told two of my friends about it, they both felt my typhoid was back because it had not been treated well at the hospital. But how could that be so, I remember taking close to 20 pills, some I had to insert through my passage, how did they all fail? My friend mentioned that typhoid reduces Cd4 count and then it hit me that perhaps I was HIV positive.
I did a new online search on symptoms of HIV; it came up with rash, fever, weakness and loss of appetite. I went to the local health centre, not the family hospital; I could not risk the doctor telling my parents, if my result came back positive. I used a fake name and had the test done. The 15+ minutes I had to wait for the results were really long. My fake name was called repeatedly and I didn’t even hear it. I was lost in worry and my thoughts. The lab attendant came and held my hands. “Aren’t you xxx, we’ve been calling you. Please come with me”.
In her little office, she and a fellow doctor told me my HIV test came back positive. I wasn’t surprised. I had expected it. The “positive” on the paper had three question marks and they advised that I do more tests. They recommended a place for me to go.
I went home sad. I locked my room and cried for hours. I didn’t cook lunch. I thought of every wrong decision that had brought me to this point. All the HIV adverts, the seminars in secondary school and university that I had not taken seriously. The stickers I had ignored, the images of sick people who had AIDS on billboards, the arguments about who was to buy condoms and lubricant during my sexcapdes. Even though I had started taking safe sex seriously months earlier, it was already too late.
I was going to do the additional tests like they had suggested Maybe they made a mistake with the results, ‘this will all go away’, I prayed to God, ‘let this please just be a warning’.
I went for another test. A new fake name, in a different community; the result was negative. I tried at another centre, with another fake name, it was negative. My confidence was heightened immediately. I was still sick with all my symptoms and yet I believed it was a mistake after all.
I went to a pharmacy far away from my home and told them about my symptoms. The pharmacist was quick to prescribe some drugs, which I took. ‘I was going to be well again’, I said to myself. I stayed away from sex and carried on with my life. My mum always called to ask I was doing since she left, I always told her I was fine. I never mentioned the HIV scare.
In March, the blisters became more. I had rashes all over my body. The sides of my nose were peeling, like my hands and feet, they got worse. I spent most of the day sleeping. I was tired, like a gang of hoodlums had beaten me. I couldn’t go to the hospital. I was throwing up after every meal, the itching worsened too. I was convinced this time, that I was indeed positive and goggled pictures of HIV victims; my body looked like theirs. I had cheated myself by not going to the health centre; I had thrown the old results away. I couldn’t go back to them.
I was desperate for help. In all my years of sleeping around, I had never made any real everyday friends, just a long list of sex buddies, sugar daddies and a handful of close penpals. The only guy I often visited had a million friends already. I wasn’t a friend; I was just another guy he knew. He was a “big boy”, popular in the community for having the gist about everyone – who had the biggest wallets, who’s dating, who’s single, who is in town from abroad & wants to fuck, the white sugar daddies that pay really well. The community thrives on gossip, so everyone was his friend mostly because of juicy details. He often match made guys and knew the best places they could have sex without being seen. He knew how to arrange all things and fix most things, but not my problem – I couldn’t go to him.
I went online searching for help. I came across one Dr Eddie in an online forum. He said he could cure HIV with silver ion. He said the treatment was for rich gay people and that they use it to cure HIV in the US. I established contact with him on planetromeo. It took a while before he sent me his phone number, he wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to give him problems and warned me not to give out his number.
He told me over the phone that his machine could spot a day old HIV. He said he had moved his clinic to Ondo state, because on more than one occasion guys had called him a fraud and bashed his clinic. Some had come with gangs to beat him up. He asked me to go and read about silver ions online and be sure I was ready for it. We stayed in touch over the phone. I didn’t read about silver ion, I just wanted a solution. I lied that I had read about it. The treatment starter kit was 20 or 25 thousand Naira (not sure of the exact amount anymore). I withdrew all the money that I had and borrowed some extra money from a family member who knew I was sick, but didn’t know it was HIV. I was ready to make the trip to Ondo state.
My once smooth spotless skin that I often got compliments for was gone. I was weak, I had to leave, I had to save myself. How would I tell my parents and siblings about my status? Especially my dad, he already told me not to come crying to him if I got into any trouble as a result of my ‘gayness’. I had to do this on my own. I brought it on myself. I stopped all the tears and focused on my trip.
Two days before my weekend trip, I saw an online post on Facebook about how silver ions was dangerous to the health. It said that people often died from blood poisoning much later. I got in touch with the doctor and asked him about it. He said it wasn’t true. He didn’t sound convincing, that was when I decided to read about it online. There was little info about it, just testimonies of how it cured HIV/AIDS.
I decided to search for another place I could go for help. I didn’t call Dr Eddie anymore and he didn’t call me either. I found nothing for days and continued for a few more weeks. I was helpless and angry. I shouted at members of my family, when there was no reason to do so. I was an emotional mess; time was not on my side….
Wazobia © (2012)